by Pauli Poisuo
As demonstrated by the Modern Rogue in this video about awful pranks that only Satan would try, pranks can be a double edged sword. You need to get the fickle balance of harmless comedy and utter sociopathy just right. If you don’t go far enough, your target doesn’t notice a thing, and you’re just some weirdo standing in the middle of the office with a rubber chicken and a fistful of thumbtacks.
But sometimes, the joke works a little too well. Wait, let us rephrase that: Sometimes, the joke causes citywide panics and government intervention.
A School Shooting Prank Ends Exactly The Way You Expect
The words “school shooting” and “joke” should never exist in the same sentence. Regardless, there are people out there who take a look at one of the most tragic events that can possibly happen and think, “Time for some hijinx!” Case in point: Angela Timmons.
Timmons was one of those unfortunate people who like to participate in April Fools, but are hindered by the fact that they have all the natural comedic talent of a WebMD page. As will soon be painfully evident, she also wasn’t particularly inventive: Her vision of a prank was to totally freak out her loved ones. And her workplace, the Virginia College in South Carolina. And the police ... lots of police.
A fitting time for a good ol' Homer Simpson, "DOH!"
Here’s how it went: In April 1, 2014, Timmons sent a text to her daughter, who lived in New York. It said that she could hear gunfire outside her office, and she was hiding for her own safety. Then, when her worried daughter inevitably tried to contact her, she just. Wouldn’t. Answer. Oh, what laughter and merriment for Angela! Her daughter had fallen for the classic "I'm about to be violently murdered in a way that will make national news" gag.
Unfortunately for our antagonist, the daughter decided to do what every single person on the planet save for Angela Timmons would do: She called the police. They stormed the premises and found approximately ten kinds of nothing. Her sole defense was that she had totally pulled stunts like this before, which didn’t exactly endear her to the authorities. She was arrested on the spot and thrown in jail, facing a number of charges, including aggravated breach of the peace and disturbing a school. Everyone else shook their head, took a deep breath and excused themselves to go scream into a pillow until the capillaries in their eyes burst.
An Alien Invasion Joke Almost Causes A Full-City Evacuation
There’s a persistent legend that Orson Welles’ original War of the Worlds radio broadcast caused a mass panic of the “aliens have landed” variety. In reality, that never happened, but don’t worry, there’s no keeping a good story down: a mere 62 years later, the legend became reality when a similar event threw an entire Jordanian town in panic mode, and almost caused a citywide evacuation.
"We mean no harm. We're just looking for a Walmart."
In 2010, a Jordanian newspaper called Al-Ghad ran an article saying that several flying saucers piloted by 10-foot-tall creatures had landed in the town of Jafr. This was, of course, an April Fools prank, and the newspaper probably thought that they would be called out almost immediately. Instead, the entire town freaked out. Maybe the paper had been a little too thorough by running their little joke as the front page article ... in a country where the press doesn’t generally run April Fools articles. It would be like your local newspaper running an article like this on a completely random Tuesday.
As it turns out, when a bunch of unsuspecting citizens are slapped in the face with front page news about aliens flooding the ‘hood, the communications being down and everyone flipping out on the streets, a significant chunk of them are just going to scream at the top of their lungs and join the fray. The made-up panic soon became an actual panic. Parents were so scared that they didn’t send their kids to school, lest they be abducted by extraterrestrial NBA prospects. The mayor had the town’s security authorities comb the city for aliens, and nearly had to evacuate the entire town before people started behaving like Philly sports fans.
"WE'RE ALL GONNA FREAKIN' DIE!"
Eventually things died down, as aliens repeatedly failed to materialize, and Al-Ghad had a chance to address and apologise for the situation. Uninvaded, the town of Jafr went about its life, and the newspaper presumably vowed to make their next April Fools article about the readers' shoes being untied.
“Kidnapping” Pranks Tend To Cause Full Scale Police Responses
If you’ve arranged a genuine pleasant surprise for someone but still feel like adding a practical joke in the mix, a popular method is to arrange a fake kidnapping. Get a couple of guys in balaclavas to surprise your terrified friend, abduct them in an appropriately creepy vehicle and speed away. Once your friend recovers from his heart attack and suppresses his urge to headbutt everyone, you take him to the event you’ve arranged and everything’s amazing again! Sadistic and hilarious!
"Hope you like PBR. We spent all our budget on props."
The thing is, the assorted neighbors and passersby that bear witness to the “attack” aren’t going to get the “Surprise, it was just a joke! Here, have a beer” closure that the actual target will. They’re going to be terrified. They’ll almost certainly call the police. And the police will not be amused. They will be plenty of other things, though. Such as on your ass, like underwear soaked in maple syrup.
You’d think that this is common sense, yet prank-kidnappings apparently keep happening. In 2013, a group of friends arranged a surprise birthday weekend for a Manhattan couple. Because all the best things in life come with an appetizer made of terror, they decided to kick said weekend off by having two masked guys chase them down, shove them in a black van, and speed away. There were, of course, certain holes in this plot. The biggest one: They chose to do this in the middle of a New York City street.
Wait, is that Bigfoot?
While the group was enjoying a fun weekend in the Poconos mountains, the ensuing 911 calls sparked a large-scale NYPD investigation. We’re talking vehicle checkpoints, helicopters scanning the area, and CCTV images of the “attack” featured on TV bulletins and front pages. Somewhere, a grizzled detective spent his Saturday, staring at an evidence board and muttering: “I had one day until retirement.”
After contacting the police and sitting through hours of no doubt less than pleasant questioning, the perpetrators were cleared of all charges and no one even pointed a gun at them. The same can’t be said for the group of Canadian guys, who decided to kick off their friend’s bachelor party in 2015 with style: They rolled into a quiet neighborhood in a U-Haul, wearing pantyhose masks, brandishing (fake) baseball bats and blasting thrash metal. Their noisy abduction of the groom-to-be was witnessed by six neighbors, each of whom called the police because of course they did.
Unfortunately for the men, the Edmonton police had just experienced their first police fatality in 25 years. They were on super high alert and, when the call came, “ready for f**king war.” (That's a verbatim quote from one of the responding officers, by the way). A car soon managed to track down the “kidnappers”, and their party was thoroughly pooped by angry, screaming cops, pointing guns in all their gape-mouthed suckholes. It’s a good thing they were not yet drunk enough to start anything stupid, seeing as all available cars, a K-9 unit and a police helicopter were heading their way.
"I just wear the hose because it makes my face look smooth."
Moral of the story: If you really feel the need to start someone’s big day by abducting them, you might want to inform the neighbors beforehand.
A Lawmaker Jokingly Nominates The Boston Strangler For A Commendation, Accidentally Succeeds
A commendation is a governing entity’s way to shower formal praise on whomever the commenders in command of commending deem commendable, but not quite commendable enough for anyone to invest in an actual medal. This is a nice idea on paper, but in practice, well ... politicians are politicians. In the early 1970s, the Texas state House had turned formal recommendations into a run-of-the-mill honor to throw at whatever visiting constituent jogged by. Rep. Tom Moore had noticed that using commendations as a ceremonial good-old-boy thing, rather than a genuine, well thought-out gesture meant that the lawmakers tended to approve the things pretty easily. Did they even read them at all? In Moore’s mind, there was only one way to find out: April Fools.
The Boston Strangler was basically every 1950's movie character.
On April 1, 1971, Moore made his move and submitted a resolution to officially honor a man named Albert De Salvo. It was a well-drafted, routine morsel of legislative action, if it wasn’t for one little thing: Albert De Salvo just so happened to be the self-confessed Boston Strangler. Also, Moore’s resolution was to commend him for his "unconventional techniques involving population control." There were jabs about De Salvo’s contributions to the fields of medicine and mental health, and about the way his “dedication and devotion to his work has enabled the weak and lonely, throughout our nation, to achieve and maintain a new degree of concern for their future.”
Wow, Moore. Was commending Ed Gein for his upholstery skills too subtle for you? There’s no way that would ever pass.
“Too many words. Just approve it, and let's get lunch.”
Of course it passed with flying colors.
It must have been a peculiar moment for Moore. On one hand, his prank had succeeded. On the other, he and the state House had just approved an official commendation for a serial killer.
Tom Moore predictably withdrew his resolution like a greased lightning. He insists to this day that the whole thing was just a lighthearted April Fools prank, but regardless of what he says, the media’s angle to the story was that he was a cunning legislator, criticizing his colleagues’ laziness with an expertly crafted practical joke. No matter which version you wish to believe, the Texas state House ended up with pie on its face. And we’re guessing that next year, every single April Fools prank in the building was aimed squarely at Tom Moore.
A “Harmless” Office Practical Joke Wrecks A Man’s Health And Causes A City-Wide Prank Ban
Imagine the situation: You’re a massively stressed-out senior manager in city administration. After what feels like years of running your 400-person-strong department non-stop, you finally manage to tear yourself away for a much-needed vacation. And then, just as you arrive to your destination and get ready to drink something -- anything -- with a tiny umbrella in it, you get an official-looking letter: You have exactly two weeks to turn in a full report on the city's corporate renewal plan. This is not a thing you can sleep on until you return. This is a massive undertaking, and you’re personally responsible of it.
And then his soul geysered right out of his body.
So you rush back, work like a maniac, and start running your department to the ground in an effort to make the deadline. And then, after a day or so, your boss happens to walk by your door with a coffee mug in his hand, and gives you a quizzical look. “Hey, Glenn! Looking a little stressed out today. Aren’t you supposed to be on vacation? Uh, what big project? Never heard of that one. Haha, someone must have been pulling your leg.”
In 2004, this exact scenario played out to Glenn Howlett, the community services manager of London, Ontario, when a prank letter by unnamed colleagues lured him away from a long-overdue vacation and back into the office for a desperate attempt to meet a fictional, virtually impossible deadline. Though douchebaggy, at least no one got hurt, right?
"Mr. Howlett, it looks like your soul geysered right out of your body."
Actually, it left the already stressed-to-the-point-of-exploding man a nervous wreck. Had he been from anywhere else in the world, Howlett would probably have burned down the entire city hall in blind fury. However, being Canadian, he politely handled the issue with a bunch of heart palpitations and an extended stress leave.
The other city officials were even more unimpressed by the joke letter. In a meeting presumably overwrought with harrumphs and exasperated grunts, they actually decided to prohibit any and all practical jokes in the workplace from all area politicians and city servants. The local media reacted to the new code of conduct in the most Canadian way possible: By politely worrying whether everyone would think that the country has lost its sense of humor.
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